Sewing A Regency Gown
Last week, I told you about the October event where I’ll be one of three Orange County, California authors reading at a tea celebrating Jane Austen. Romance author and Romance Readers Club organizer Deanna Cameron asked me about appearing at this event in Regency period costume just after she had seen my pictures from the Admiral Nelson Ball.
Here I am in my faux Regency gown (the phantom hand belongs to my husband, who wishes to remain incognito). Actually, this was a dress I picked up for less than $20 at Marshall’s. The only thing period about it is the empire waist. The knit fabric is definitely not period. It had given me good service, but I didn’t want to wear it to the tea.
So having been an intrepid sewer in past years, I dug through my stash and found this Butterick pattern I’d bought years ago.
I’m not crazy about the puffy sleeves or the low neckline, but I figured I could devise a fichu (as I’d done with the dress from the ball).
Then I had to buy fabric, and what to buy? I’m partial to jewel tones because they work with my coloring. Regency stories are filled with puce and primrose textiles, colors that remind me of those popular in Depression-era fabrics. To see what primrose and pomona green and puce looked like, you can go here.
In Regency stories, there’s also a mention of Regency misses in their muslin gowns. If you’re a sewer, you have visions of ladies walking around in beige furniture drapes or the muslin prep garment used to make a master pattern. But Regency muslin was a fine cotton fabric closer to “voile or a fine batiste” according to Jessamyn’s Regency Costume Companion.
After perusing this wonderful site, I went off to Jo-Anne’s Fabrics, and, after a great deal of searching, wound up in the home fabric section and came up with this combination:
What do you think? Very “puce-y”, no? The fabric is a heavy cottony weave–no sheer muslin for me, since I’m well beyond the “miss” stage in any era. I thought to use the striped portion, which is a smaller piece, for the bodice.
Then, with that settled, I went off to buy the trims and notions. And horror of horrors, I discovered that this pattern called for lacing. Egad. Of course I knew that buttons were primarily the province of men’s clothing in the Regency, but I was thinking—oh, what was I thinking? Hooks and eyes?
In any case, I bought an inexpensive eyelet kit, and went to look for cord for the lacing. I found some parachute cord in the jewelry making section–black, but I bought it anyway. Back at home, I went on Amazon and found the perfect color at Paracord Planet. Who knew?
Then I got busy with the novella I’ll be releasing later this month and preparations for the hat I was wearing to opening day at Del Mar. (See how my mind works?) I went off to Jo-Ann’s again to buy materials for my race day hat, and I stumbled over this Simplicity pattern:
Okay, it wasn’t really a stumble–those eyelets are intimidating. This pattern appealed to me. Higher neckline and less puffy sleeves–I liked it, and I bought it. I looked around and found this fabric:
The lighting in this photo is bad, but the color is rather like the emerald green, a bluish-green, mentioned at the Regency Colors website. I later discovered (and can’t find the reference, sorry) that the brocade was not period for England, but it was still used in America.
Here is my progress so far! This dress doesn’t require eyelets, but it is tied in the back with cords at the neckline and waistline. I’ll use the black parachute cord from dress number one for these lacings, and eventually I’ll make the puce dress also!
So readers, what do you think? If you’d like to see the finished project, please come and join us on October 24th–or wait for my pictures! I’ll post them here!
Images: Butterick and Simplicity Patterns, and the author